Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D long ago wrote the popular poem
Children Learn What They Live paraphrased here:
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight….
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal. ()
But what if children live with addiction? Here I will take my own stab at what that poem might look like…..
If children live with drunkenness
They learn that people are unpredictable and unreliable
If children live with denial
They learn to mistrust what they feel and sense
If children live with emotional abuse
They learn to feel bad about themselves
If children live with shame
They learn to hide who they really are
If children live with addiction
They learn to become addicts
So what can we do to break the chain of addiction from moving insidiously from generation to generation? I asked Sis Wenger CEO of The National Association for Children of Addiction (NACoA) to shed some light on this.
Sis: Children have always been the first hurt and last helped when addiction enters a family. COAs suffer intensely in lonely isolation believing theirs is the only family going through the ravages of addiction and that somehow they should try to fix the problem.
Tian: What is NACoA and how does it help these kids?
Sis: NACoA the Voice for the Children, is a national child advocacy organization focusing on the millions of children of addiction (18.5 million of which are children of alcoholics) in our country who suffer in silence in devastated families controlled by addiction.
Tian: What would you say is its mission?
Sis: Its mission is to eliminate the adverse impact of alcohol and drug use on children and families.
Tian: What does NACoA do for Kids?
Sis: NACoA partners with those people who directly touch a child’s life and trains them on how to identify and support a child who might be living with addiction, this means teachers, medical people and clergy. We create and provide profession specific educational tools working with educational leaders from each field. — e.g, curriculum, direct and on-line training and products to help the children, their parents, teachers and grandparents and distributes these through multiple strategies.
Tian: What do you mean by “products” are these games, programs, what do you mean?
The Children’s Program Kit, Celebrating Families!™ for example, is an evidence-based whole family recovery program, that is being used in drug and family courts, in treatment programs as a continuing care program for people in treatment and their families to heal together. It results in reducing relapse and recidivism as well as preventing children from being removed from a family or halving the time for family reunification. After participating in this 16 week program, we see remarkable healing within families and we’re actually intervening on the inter-generational transmission of addiction.
Sis: Yes, social media outlets give the children basic information and strategies to be safe and to grow in healthy ways despite what is happening in their families.
Tian: Like what strategies or information ?
Kids need to know they don’t have to suffer in silence. Help is available — there are safe people nearby who will listen and support them and help them understand, that they have choices that they can make for themselves. They need to find a safe person and tell them their truth and ask for help.
They need to learn that addiction is a brain disease and that the terrible things a parent may say and do, come from the addiction and that their parents are people who need professional help, that they have a disease called addiction that they as kids can’t fix.
And they need to understand it is not their fault. Their job is to be kids and take good care of themselves..
They need to internalize the 7 Cs:
1. I didn’t CAUSE it
2. I can’t CURE it
3. I can’t CONTROL it
4. I can help take CARE of myself by
5. COMMUNICATING my feelings
6. Making healthy CHOICES and
7. CELEBRATING MYSELF
Tian: Who is NACoA?
Sis: We are adults who suffered as children in an alcoholic family and want something better for today’s children. We are concerned professionals who work to change the education of our peers to include the plight of children of addicted parents so that they can recognize and help them in their everyday practice. We are college students who are trying to learn what they need to know to make a difference. We are youth workers, coaches, volunteers, faith leaders, grandparents and neighbors who just logged ontofor guidance as to how to help a hurting child whether it’s to help them to access help or just to be that safe person they can talk to.
Tian: OK, Let me try again with your mission in mind…I’ll take another stab….
When children live with recovery
They learn that people can change for the better
When children live with parents who are healing
They learn to heal themselves
When children live with parents who face and deal with their problems
They learn problems can be overcome
When children live with amends
They learn to forgive and move on in their lives
The annual Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week is always celebrated nationally and internationally during the week of Valentine’s Day. For more information log onto.